New Book Demonstrates Forest Residents' Role in Conservation

Prakash Kashwan’s Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico shows that choosing between land rights of the peasants and forest dwellers and environmental sustainability is a false choice.

On September 5, 1921, the first King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, sent a letter to Rufus Isaacs, the then British viceroy of India, outlining a 20 point plan for the development of the country, and asking for help. More interesting than the letter is the reply he received, in which the viceroy offered to help in return for Bhutan opening up its forests for timber harvesting. Ugyen Wangchuck refused the offer, and Bhutan’s modern development had to wait almost another four decades when his grandson, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, in collaboration with independent India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, embarked on Bhutan’s transformation.

Today Bhutan’s forest cover is key to its green credentials. With 75% of its land area covered by forests, and a constitutional clause that states that not less than two thirds of its area will be covered by forests, Bhutan absorbs three times more carbon dioxide than it produces. Its pledge at the climate summit in Paris in 2015 was considered the most ambitious of those presented.

Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


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